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Classics Every Middle Schooler Should Read

I recently read Winston Churchill’s little volume Painting as a Pastime. Before he gets to the what’s and why’s of painting, he describes reading and the unique power books hold. They contain, he says, an

“infinitely varied store of knowledge and wisdom which the human race has accumulated and preserved, pride, even in its most innocent forms, is chased from the heart by feelings of awe not untinged with sadness.”

Then Churchill gets really depressing by encouraging us to think of all the books we’ll never have time for and all of the tales we will never know.

While there is (sadly) not enough time to read every book ever written, don’t waste your time on worthless ones. This list contains classics — books that expound the universal themes of life, have stood the test of time, have to be read carefully and studied, and make you think. This list is designed with middle school students in mind (next, we’ll post our high school list). If you (mom or dad) have not read these, I would encourage you to read them alongside your child!


Books are treasures. Churchill writes,

“Peer into [books]. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands.”

Your child may not feel like reading is a voyage of discovery. You cannot make your child love reading. But you can set the best books in front of them (turning off the TV might help, too).

This list is not exhaustive, but here are some of my top recommendations and personal favorites from my own middle school homeschooling years:

  • Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
  • Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe**
  • Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight**
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain*
  • The Odyssey, Homer
  • The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
  • All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Remarque*
  • Autobiography by Ben Franklin
  • The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper
  • Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • Animal Farm, George Orwell*
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee**
  • Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
  • Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  • Poems by George Herbert
  • Sonnets by William Shakespeare
  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

    * Contains violence that may be a bit mature for some audiences

    **Contains sexual content that may be a bit mature for some audiences